Ukraine says Russia releases 215 Ukrainians held after Mariupol battle

Register now to get free unlimited access to

(Reuters) – Russia has released 215 Ukrainians it had captured after a protracted battle for the port city of Mariupol earlier this year, including top military leaders, a senior official in Kyiv said on Wednesday.

Among the released prisoners were the commander and deputy commander of the Azov battalion, which did most of the fighting, said Andrei Yermak, chief of staff to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The move is unexpected, as Russian-backed separatists said last month that there would be a trial of Azov employees, whom Moscow calls Nazis. Ukraine denies the charge.

Register now to get free unlimited access to

Yermak said in a statement that among the released prisoners were Azov commander Lieutenant Colonel Denis Prokopenko and his deputy, Svyatoslav Palamar.

Serhiy Volynsky, commander of the 36th Marine Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, was also released.

The three men had helped lead a weeks-long resistance from bunkers and tunnels beneath giant steelworks in Mariupol before they and hundreds of Azov fighters surrendered in May to Russian-backed forces.

See also  Russia vetoes the UN resolution on the announced annexation, and China abstains from the vote

In return, Yermak said, Kyiv released 55 Russian prisoners as well as Viktor Medvedchuk, a banned pro-Russian party leader who was facing accusations of treason.

The public station Susplain said the exchange took place near the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv.

Earlier today, Saudi Arabia said Russia had released 10 foreign prisoners of war captured in Ukraine after mediation by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Read more

Last month, the head of the Russian-backed separatist administration in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region said that the trial of the captured Azov personnel would take place by the end of the summer. Read more

The Azov unit, formed in 2014 as a militia to fight Russian-backed separatists, denies being fascist, and Ukraine says it has been reformed from its radical nationalist origins.

Register now to get free unlimited access to

(Reporting by David Younggreen) Editing by Alistair Bell and Rosalba O’Brien

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *